WASHINGTON DC, USA – Hillary Clinton is poised to officially launch her 2016 presidential campaign this weekend, setting the stage for a bruising election battle as she bids to become the first woman elected to the White House.
Several US media reports citing sources in Clinton's campaign team said the 67-year-old was likely to announce her candidacy for the Democratic nomination on Sunday, April 12.
The former first lady is expected to be the clear Democratic frontrunner in the race to succeed Barack Obama, who pipped her for the nomination in a protracted battle in 2008.
Clinton is expected to announce her candidacy via social media and a video message, several reports said, followed by a low-key campaign swing through key state Iowa.
Spokespeople for Clinton and the Ready for Hillary organization did not comment.
The wife of former president Bill Clinton leads opinion polls among Democrats, some 60% of whom say they would vote for her in the primaries, according to the website RealClearPolitics.
Two other potential candidates – Senator Elizabeth Warren and Vice President Joe Biden – have not yet said they intend to run.
On the Republican side, Senators Rand Paul and Ted Cruz have already thrown their hats into the ring, with more candidates likely to follow – including Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida, brother to president George W. Bush and son of president George H.W. Bush.
A series of polls this year have consistently placed Clinton ahead of every one of her potential Republican challengers, although the gap has narrowed in recent weeks. (READ: ‘President Hillary’ to follow through on Asia pivot – analyst)
Campaign machine in place
Though Clinton has not yet officially announced her candidacy, her supporters and campaign teams have for years been preparing the ground for an eventual run.
The Ready for Hillary group has raised more than $15 million to support her from 135,000 donors.
She is expected to lead – at least at the start – a low-key campaign, with small events for voters in key states. (READ: Inevitable Clinton in 2016? Not so fast says Democrat rival)
"I think it's important, and Hillary does too, that she go out there as if she's never run for anything before and establish her connection with the voters," husband Bill Clinton told Town & Country magazine.
"My role should primarily be as a backstage advisor to her until we get much, much closer to the election."
A humble approach may help dispel doubts about Clinton raised in recent weeks, after it was revealed that she used a private email account when she was secretary of state from 2009 to 2013.
Detailed examinations of donations from foreign states and businesses to the Clinton Foundation when she was secretary of state have also raised questions about potential conflicts of interest.
She has used hashtags like #GrandmothersKnowBest and #YouGoGirl in her tweets to take jabs at Republicans in Congress and encourage young girls to pursue careers in IT.
Clinton has also talked about her new role as a grandmother to daughter Chelsea's own daughter, Charlotte – a stark contrast to the tough-as-nails image she cultivated in 2008.
She hinted at a softer approach in an updated epilogue for the paperback edition of her book "Hard Choices," where she reflects at length about being a grandparent.
"Becoming a grandmother has made me think deeply about the responsibility we all share as stewards of the world we inherit and will one day pass on," Clinton writes.
"Rather than make me want to slow down, it has spurred me to speed up."
For Lara Brown, the director of the graduate program in political management at George Washington University, Clinton – who would be the first female US president if elected – will surely reposition herself this time around.
"In 2008, she attempted to position herself essentially as Margaret Thatcher, as somebody who was strong, but not necessarily somebody who consciously focused on or related to her gender as a political advantage," Brown told Agence France-Presse (AFP).
"I think certainly she and her campaign team learned from 2008 that there is power in being a first."
Jennifer Lawless, director of the Women and Politics Institute at American University in Washington, said Clinton was working on softening her image.
"People believed that she was confident, and that she was a strong leader. They were less inclined to think of her as very empathetic or particularly likable," Lawless said.
"The grandmother hashtag is one perfect example of how she's beginning to address that."
More so than in 2008, Clinton's strength on foreign policy will be an asset, but if her recent tweets indicate anything, it is that she will focus on the economy, the middle class, wage inequality and social issues. – Ivan Couronne, AFP/Rappler.com